Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande is the first Executive Governor of Lagos. He is fondly called the Action Governor based on his zero tolerance on laziness and tremendous work ethic. He was also celebrated for his welfarist programmes and projects. Baba Kekere is indeed a man of modest life style, as we found out when we conducted this interview. He still lives in the same Ilupeju, Lagos home he was living before he assumed office in 1979.
What propelled you as a journalist into politics
Though it is said that man is a political animal, as a journalist, we are usually more involved in the goings on in the country because as a member of the Fourth Estate, we were part of the process of nation-building.
However, I got interested in partisan politics because of what I saw as the poor state of the people. Improving the welfare of the people was a major reason for joining politics.
Fortunately, I was an ally and later a member of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Party, Action Group, and Awolowo being the great leader that he was, mentored and inspired us to participate and we had no choice but to follow his wise counsel having learnt a lot from him
I am grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to serve our fatherland and for doing the little we could to impact the lives of many people as the Governor of Lagos. We already had a blueprint for the party, the Unity Party of Nigeria, so it was just to have the political will and the discipline to implement them.
One of the major problems that has led to our stunted growth is that lack of self-discipline, people are generally too sentimental and selfish at times, for me, once something is for the common good, I never looked back.
Sir, years after you left government, people still say LKJ was a great leader, how does that make you feel
Let me say I have great admiration for the people of Lagos State because they they have kept appreciating my service and up till today they are doing everything to express that appreciation.
I find it very comfortable, very rewarding to served the people in various ways which I would say was due to God’s own blessing. We were able to achieve all we did while in government because we were committed and God was on our side. When I took over as Governor of Lagos state we did our very best to make life better, I had two big programmes, the first was Education, and the other was Housing.
In Education you must remember that education was not free in Lagos and also we had three shifts in schools, morning, afternoon and evening.
When I told my team that we were not only going to deliver free education, we will have only one session, in the morning. Some of them said it was impossible.
That is why earlier I had talked about political will and following things through. We began to build the schools and people called it all kinds of names but we went ahead and announced, there were challenges at first but it became stable later. You can imagine the stress that we removed from people’s lives with that decision.
We did not only deal with primary, we also did same in Secondary and also established our own University. So we wanted to take care of education from beginning to the end. That was a tall ambition and we thank God that we achieved it. And today, it is the norm for many states all over Nigeria to use this same template for their own education programme. It was when we achieved these promises, and the other people-oriented interventions we carried out within a short space of time that people began to call me Action Governor
The second as I mentioned, was low cost housing for the people of Lagos. We were ambitious and began projects all over the state. We are very fortunate because my successors in government have followed through with similar programmes and provision of low cost housing has now become part and parcel of Lagos state.
Talking of your successors, are you happy with the state of Lagos since you left
I am very happy with the successive administrations, each one had contributed to the momentum that we started. If you go around Lagos, there is evidence of progress, I am delighted at that. We do not have too many abandoned projects like in other states.
Lagos is celebrating 50, what is your wish for Lagos
I wish Lagos becomes the mega city that we have all dreamt of, I wish Lagos will have a all the amenities of a modern city like a very good rail system and road network. Talking of rail, one matter that really bothered me was the metroline project that did not continue. Imagine if we had done it then, it would have eased the transport system in Lagos. Traffic is still a major problem in Lagos, yes, all major capitals have this same problem, but it will be greatly reduced if we have something like a metroline.
I am happy that a form of it is being pursued by the present administration, Lagos cannot become great except we get a functioning train system that serves the metropolis. If and when that is completed, I will be very glad. I wish Lagosians well as we